We're dressed in comfy leggings and tops - clothes that will stay on for the entirety of class, mind you. When we get down on the floor to stretch, it feels like any other athletic warmup. But not for long. Soon Sarah Jacoby - our teacher and Studio 9's owner - asks us to take our place at one of four poles that are bolted from floor to ceiling in the small room. For the next hour this pole, silent and reliable, will be our dance partner.
Nervous laughter turns into smiling comfort as Jacoby teaches us the moves - the fireman spin, the peep show, the show boat. We learn to hook a thigh around the pole, twirl, and slide down; then we link the moves together in a choreographed dance. Music and colored lights help us shimmy off our inhibitions.
I had no idea that pole dancing called up so much artistry and flair, along with strength, flexibility, and sheer, brazen confidence. Even if I'm not a natural at pole (you won't catch me spinning sideways in a split anytime soon), I leave feeling sexy, happy, and strong.
"It's a head-to-toe workout," Jacoby tells me over tea after class at the El Salvadoran restaurant downstairs. Now in three locations throughout the Hudson Valley - Middletown, Poughkeepsie, and Kingston - Studio 9 is gaining traction among a small but growing fitness pole community.
As both exercise and art, pole dancing is shaking off its erotic stigma. Originally designed to titillate men, "it's being reclaimed as a form of empowering women," says Jacoby, who has seen women of all ages, shapes, and sizes gain a newfound confidence from her classes.
One of the best parts of my pole experience is telling friends about it over the next few days. All of them respond with wide-eyed curiosity and an unmistakable hint of longing. "You mean, I could do that, here in the Hudson Valley?" they ask. Yes, ma'am. If I could do it, you could too.
3 Field Court, Kingston NY
101 Monhagen Avenue, Middletown NY
235 South Ave, 2nd Floor, Poughkeepsie NY